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The Biblical or Secular Hermit - Old Testament, New Testament or None
Who is the Hermit?
The life of a hermit may not absolutely require one to cut oneself off from other people and civilization, if the hermitage is lived from within. I think it comprises a hermitage of a mental and spiritual nature.
Given that as the case, one can walk through the streets of New York City - even live there - and be a hermit within, and the lifestyle shows up in the hermit's behaviors and interactions. This is not the first widespread notion of "hermit", but it is one for today among a world population growing perhaps too quickly.
Probably, people today choose periods of hermit lifestyle interspersed with other styles. One caveat is that when functioning as a hermit from within, others might take this hermit for mentally ill. This gives me a vision of a bald eagle soaring through a sky filled with magpies that will not close their beaks, chatter-chatter...Which species is mad?
A Native American proverb from the Plains Indians advises, "Carry more lightning in the hand and less thunder in the mouth." Solitude and quiet are rejuvenating.
The hermit life can still be one of isolation, if that isolation is what is most effective for a person and also chosen by the hermit. I think, also that the hermit life can be spiritual or secular. Thoreau at Walden Pond lived a hermit life of both, I think.
Carry more lightning in the hand and less thunder in the mouth.— Plains Indian Nations
A hermitage is a religious retreat, so I think that the wondrous retreat in Kentucky is a grand venue for being a hermit. A businessman that was sick and tired of things planned to spend a week and spent a year, completely rejuvenated. Ironically hermitage is also a word meaning wine grape and the monks make good wines, and cheeses, and other products.
Do you ever just want to be alone? Some of us would simply like to find a library that still has a silent corner and is not all "community house" full of gossip, yak-yakking cell phones, and hanging-out looking for trouble. Still, you can be a one-day hermit at a local retreat. One on the East Side of Columbus sponsors All Day Thursday At the Retreat. You can go the night before for a very reasonable fee, less than a motel, sleep well, and have peace and quiet all the next day. Another in Cleveland advertises: 57 acres of forest, meadow, and prayer pathways; homecooked meals, basketball court, library, and more. One need not be Catholic or of any denomination or faith to enjoy these centers.
Another interesting note -- President Andrew Jackson's home, a National Historic Landmark outside Nashville,Tennessee was named The Hermitage early on, about 1802. This name may have reflected his stated intentions of retiring from public life several times, but I believe he saw the property as a retreat from financial problems and politics.
Description of "religious retreat" by St. Therese's Retreat Center
"A retreat is about YOU but it’s not a selfish thing. A retreat should cause you to think about your life. It can benefit you … and others too.
So, try to leave the “outside world” out there, and instead seek a deep inner feeling of asking God about your life. Are you living it the way He would want you to? Seek God’s spiritual direction for yourself. That’s what it’s all about. Really get the good life."
Additional Retreat Centers
- The Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky -- Welcome to the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Bardstown and Elizabethtown KY. Learn about the historyof the Trappist Monks and what they are doing now, Thomas Merton, monastic life, retreats at the Abbey and vocation are instroduced.Visit the bookstore and excellent monk-made food, wine, and gift shop. Phone:(502) 549-3117
- Religious Retreats and Spiritual Retreats & Retreat Centers by State
Faith of Early and Latter Day Hermits
About people of faith, in both Old testament and New Testament, the Book of Hebrews has much to say. I am using the New Living Translation below.
It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.
[Other OT believers are discussed in verses 29 - 34]
Hebrews 11: 35 - 40
...But others [believers in Christ] were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.*
All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
*Too good for this world is a phrase that can offend people. This is the New Living Translation, but other versions make it sound even worse:: "homeless, friendless, powerless -- the world did not deserve them!" (The Message Bible).
Moses and the former Hebrew slaves were hermits for 40 years in the desert, until they entered another land under the leadership of Joshua. The hermitage of some of the Christians in verses 35-40 above took place in caves and deserts, and not completely of their own choice. The last lines point to their having to influence the rest of the people for good, and that is a usual or traditional function of a hermitage - good to self and others.
Hermitage as a Life
A spiritual hermit or a hermit of faith is cut off from people and interaction with others in order to bring about change. The change can be within oneself or in others. John the Baptist was such a man, living in the desert.
I feel that Mahatma Gandhi was a hermit each time he fasted for a lengthy time in protest of political and social wrongs. He cut himself off from people and nutrition in order to make a point and to withdraw from wrong-ness.
Many sources mention a Desert Theology in the Old Testament of the Bible, specifically as it relates to the Jews in the Book of Deuteronomy 1:21-48 where the Hebrew Nation fled Egyptian enslavement and wandered for 40 years in a wilderness. This has been duplicated metaphorically in a number of written and filmed stories and is familiar to the public.
On the fictional planet Vulcan, Spock as a boy of 8 or 9 participated in the Kolinahr, an experience designed to purge emotions by isolating oneself in the superheated desert to meditate and to survive for a prolonged period.
This is a metaphor in science fiction for the iconic wandering in the desert of the Old Testament Jews. Moreover, the original Spock was played by a Jew, Leonard Nimoy, who enjoyed input into his character, plots, and symbols.
Spock's physical and philosophical hermitage occurred in childhood, but among humans and other races in the fiction of his universe, he was an emotional hermit for the majority of his interactions and life.
Individual Times of Hermitage
Nearly anyone might benefit from a period of solitude, quiet, and time to think, with or without prayer. This action may be more important in a world bombarded by 21st-century overstimulation by communication technologies. In fact, an announcement in August 2001 of a planned attack and shut-down of Facebook social network in November caused some users to become frantic. We've asked the question several times before: What of the Internet closed down? Periods of hermitage might keep one out of enslavement to machines.
Related Hermit Links
- BBC NEWS | Programmes | Correspondent | Japan: The Missing Million
Phil Rees is in Japan to find out why a million young men are locking themselves out of life and into their rooms - the hikikomori syndrome.
- CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Hermits
Also called anchorites, men who fled the society of their fellow-men to dwell alone in retirement
- Modern Hermits : NPR
Linda Wertheimer talks with Sister Marion Madden, the Vicar for Religious in the Diocese of Wheeling, West Virginia, about the role of hermits in modern life and the Catholic Church.
- Margaret Cabaniss: A Modern-Day Hermit